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Tuesday July 18 4:55 AM ET
House Fails to Ban Most Internet Gambling
By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The House failed to pass a bill that would criminalize most forms of Internet gambling, an industry that has grown explosively in the past several years.
Proponents of the bill had a majority of the votes but failed to reach the two-thirds mark required by a special process that would have expedited the bill`s passage.
The final vote was 245-159, with 30 abstentions.
The bill would have banned online wagers on sporting events and casino games, as well as the sale of lottery tickets online.
Horse racing, greyhound racing and jai alai were exempted from the bill after a deal was reached Friday with lawmakers and lobbyists concerned that the bill would prohibit the use of closed-circuit television for off-track betting.
The bill would have required U.S. Internet service providers to block access to gambling sites but did not hold them liable if they failed to do so.
Under a special process known as suspension of the rules, debate on the issue was limited to 40 minutes Monday, but that meant proponents needed a two-thirds majority to win passage of the bill.
In the end, they were 45 votes shy of the total needed. Proponents can try to push for another vote on a simple majority later.
Virginia Republican Bob Goodlatte, sponsor of the bill, said in a statement released after the vote that he hoped the House leadership would bring up the bill for another vote.
Passage ``Of Utmost Importance``
``It is of utmost importance that this legislation is passed and signed into law this year,`` Goodlatte said.
The Republican leadership is divided on the issue. Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas voted for the bill, while House Whip Tom DeLay, also of Texas, voted against it. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinoisan, did not vote.
A similar bill was passed by a voice vote in the Senate last November.
The Clinton administration issued a statement Monday saying it strongly opposed the bill and was ``especially troubled`` by the horse racing, dog racing and jai alai exemptions.
``The administration strongly opposes (the measure), which appears to be designed to protect certain forms of Internet gambling that currently are illegal while opening the floodgates for other forms of illegal gambling,`` it said.
The vote did not break down neatly along party lines, as 165 Republicans and 79 Democrats voted for the bill, and 44 Republicans and 114 Democrats voted against it. One independent voted for and one against the measure.
Revenues from online gambling jumped 80 percent last year to $1.67 billion and are expected to top $3 billion by 2002, according to industry trackers Christiansen Capital Advisors.
Online gambling is legal in many parts of Europe, Latin America, Australia, Asia and the Caribbean
Sue Schneider, chairwoman of the Interactive Gaming Council, an industry group, said that she would continue her lobbying campaign.
``Obviously, it`s not over,`` Schneider said. ``But hopefully, it`s an opportunity to open up other avenues of discussion at this point.``
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